The last of the water covering flash-boiled off Brand’s hands. Chaos lunged for him, forcing his hands behind his back.
In an instant, the floor behind Brand exploded into an obscuring cloud of dust and the crash and rumble beyond it hinted at further destruction beyond that. The building shook and bucked as important structural supports were obliterated.
“I can’t turn it off!” bawled Brand. “What’s happening? Oh, Jesus, this isn’t what was supposed to happen.”
Chaos didn’t answer him. Instead, he pulled on the panicked man’s arms again, forcing them upward so that the adjacent buildings and further supports weren’t in danger. He ceiling above them dissolved and the dust was blasted aside by Chaos’s powers.
“Up and out!” He shouted over his shoulder to Darkness just as the hallway shuddered and tilted a few degrees off kilter. Calling up his powers, he filled his cape like a parachute and flung himself and Brand into the sky. Thanks to the pillar of destructive power emanating from Brand, he couldn’t send his fiance out ahead of him.
As soon as they were clear of the roof, Chaos focused on the air around Brand’s head and thinned out the air.
“How long?” asked Darkness, flying up behind Brand and taking hold of his arms so Chaos could get a better grip to hold the man up.
“The way he’s freaking out? A minute or less. He’s burning oxygen fast. Below them, the building groaned and settled under its own weight. A blast of concrete dust billowed up from where stressed construction was starting to be ground apart by gravity. “How many still in there?”
Darkness turned her gaze down toward the building and activated her infrared goggles. “I can’t be sure, but I see two near the center of the third floor.”
“Shit.” Chaos spat, trying to hold his concentration on maintaining the thin air as well as keeping himself aloft. “Any chance one of them is the woman with super-speed?”
“They’re… not moving. Not passed out, they’re just standing there.”
“Maybe they didn’t here the warning.” Chaos watched as Brand’s head started to loll. The man’s frightened questions were turning into slurred mutterings as unconsciousness started to overtake him.
“They still have to feel the building shaking apart.” said Darkness. “I need to go in and get them. They’re on the top floor, I should be able to blast out the ceiling there a—” Another violent tremor went through the building and the corner Brand had blasted out began to crumble and collapse. The second floor hallway, too damaged to stand on its own, was dragged down along with it, taking the hall above it along with it.
Even as Brand passed out, the two heroes could only watch in horror as an entire side of the building caved in, followed by a significant portion of the center.
Isp and Osp braced against the ground and strained. The herculean strength of the tentacles shifted a slab of reinforced concrete twice the size of a car aside, allowing the rescue team access further into the ruins of the building.
Darkness was flying overhead, keeping them apprised on the position of the miraculously still-living pair from the collapse, but everyone knew there was a chance there were still bodies in the debris as well as hazardous materials used in the manufacture of the Gold.
Detective Rodgers was watching the operations from a safe distance, arms folded with a scowl on her face. “You should have kept us in the loop about what was going on.”
“There would have been cops under that rubble if we had.” said Codex, thought she didn’t find any pride in those words. “All of their security personnel was on the Gold: super-powered. Do you think they mayor would have lent you the Powered Armor Division for the raid?”
Rodgers shrugged. “So what you’re saying is, this—” she waved her hand at the collapsed building, “Was inevitable.”
Codex shook her head. “We won’t know for sure until the lab results are back for the hire muscle, Brand. Our best assumption is that he was an un-manifested descendant and the Gold had an unforeseen side effect on him.
Not far from them, paramedics and ROCIC personnel were working on Brand, making sure he was on a continuous drip of tranquilizers until he could be fitted with something to contain his out of control power.
“We’ll know more once we dig out the computers here and figure out what all went into the Gold’s formulation.”
“Here I thought you were going to be more shit-sure of yourself.” said Rodgers.
Codex shook her head again. “With this situation, we’re not sure of anything. Everyone that’s been rounded up so far has been just a hired gun or lackey. We know precisely nothing for certain.
A shout went up from the middle of the debris field as One of Zero’s planes of psycho kinetic force cleared away some final chunks of rubble to reveal a broken slab rimed in blue-white energy that shoved it aside as soon as the extra weight was taken off.
Beneath them, Lorenzo slumped on his hands and knees, panting and shivering from exertion. Beside him lay another man of Asian descent. Lorenzo had obviously been too slow in catching the falling ceiling, as a piece of rock had crushed the other man’s artificial arm. Something in the arm must have shorted, as part of his sleeve was scorched and where debris had torn his shirt, the telltale fern-pattern burn of an electrocution was visible.
“You better pay me double, you dumb son of a bitch.” Lorenzo muttered as a pair of rescue workers approached to check him over.
More ambulances had arrived, as the Gold was starting to wear off and starvation was starting to set in for the hired goons.
Codex leaned over the gurney of the man with the artificial arm, staying out of the way of the specially trained paramedic who was disconnecting the ruined limb to keep it form doing more damage. “I know this man…” she said. Her eidetic memory recalled a profile she once pulled on him when one of his friends reported him missing and recruited the Descendants to find him.
He was the one that they hadn’t found.
“Trey Phan.” she murmured. “How the hell did you get mixed up in something like this? The Interfacers were more like rogue hobbyists than drug dealers…”
“Hey, I remember that guy.” Codex stiffened as she heard Facsimile’s voice beside her. “That’s one of the cyborg nerds. The one Zero’s friend said abandoned them.”
Codex nodded. “Looks like. I’m just wondering what he had to do with all this. Though it looks like we’ll have to wait out the coma to find out.”
“Jeez, he’s in a coma?”
“His arm shorted and electrocuted him through the connection between his nervous system and the arm’s control modules. He’s honestly lucky to be alive after that. It looks like all of his other enhancements saved him.”
The paramedic glanced up, not sure if he should even be hearing the conversation. “Actually… it looks like the upgrades he did to the arm are what caused this.” He ventured.
Codex tilted her head. “How so?”
“If this had been just a prosthetic arm, there wouldn’t have been enough voltage to shock him into a coma. But this thing… I don’t even know what the thing built into his palm is—looks like a weapon. Whatever it is, it’s drawing more power than a small house from… somewhere. The crime lab is going to need years to figure this one out.”
“Hmm…” Codex said. “I’ll need to discuss that with them then. We’ll stop bothering you and leave you to your work though.” She took Facsimile’s elbow and led her away.
Facsimile looked back at the unconscious Phan. “It is wrong of me to be disappointed that we didn’t get to fight the psycho cyborg with an arm cannon?” She frowned. “Speaking of which, how come you guys didn’t call us? This did seem kind of like a ‘full team’ job.”
“It didn’t start this way.” said Codex with some hesitation. “Darkness got called in by the mayor to figure out how random people were gaining powers out of nowhere and it snowballed.” She paused, considering. “But that’s not why we didn’t bring you in.”
The golden heroine blinked. “I don’t get it. You guys never froze us out before…”
“Not all of you, Fax… just you.”
“Now I understand even less. No offense to the others, but I’m probably the most useful of all of us. I mean sure, sometimes I screw up but—”
Codex put a hand on her shoulder. “Cyn…” She said quietly so no one else could hear. “It’s not because of how good you are. I know and the others know you’re a very capable young woman. The issue is… well, the Gold.”
Facsimile stopped walking. A feeling like being dunked in cold water overcame her and every muscle tensed. “Gold. Oh those sons of bitches. It’s that crap Shine was using, isn’t it? That’s how they got superpowers?” She turned and glared at Phan. “That guy is so lucky he’s a vegetable right now or…”
Her shoulders slumped. “That right there’s why you didn’t bring me in, isn’t it?”
“In retrospect, you probably could have ended this without taking the building down.” said Codex.
Facsimile smirked. “Or maybe I would have taken it down myself. I… I know how I am. I would have ruined things at step one when the cheese drug dealer showed me the fifty-one flavors they made out of my DNA. Then we would have never found these guys.” Her face fell again. “You did the right thing.”
“It’s okay to be emotional about this kind of thing.”
“No, it’s really not. Not like I am.” said Facsimile. “If I’m just going to get angry and beat the shit out of people that do this kind of thing, I feel like I’m still no better than Sean. And I want to be better than him. I want to be like you.”
Codex squeezed the young woman’s shoulder, forgoing the hug she wanted to give her due to the surrounding media and police. “If it makes you feel any better, when I found out about this, I wanted to hurt these guys too. There’s nothing wrong with anger and aggression as long as you remember how to channel it.”
“Then that’s what I want to learn how to do.” said Facsimile. “That, and I think we really need to get to the bottom of this Gold stuff and take it off the market for good.”
The incident and what few details were known about the ‘clandestine custom drug ring’ that had been busted up in a climactic battle with the Descendants were on the front page of the Mayfield Scribe‘s website by ten that night.
“What a waste.” said Brother Wright. He was reading the Scribe article in one window while video chatting with Thunderhead in another.
“I wouldn’t say that.” replied the mentalist. “Phan unlocked the first few steps along the path to exploring the full… potential… of Potentia. The Gold is dangerous and unstable, but it is a start. And the fact that untrained goons managed to even put up a fight against the Descendants means that there will no doubt be many, many idiots willing to pay top dollar for it even if it puts them on death’s door.”
Wright frowned and ran a hand through his hair. He’d discovered a few new gray ones that morning and wasn’t happy about it. “True. I have some people on line for just that sort of thing. But it’s lucky that Phan was put in a coma, or else he might have ended up destroying your entire ‘Vorran’ operation in Mayfield by revealing his buyers and network.
“Yes, ‘lucky’.” Thunderhead said dryly. “Thought I have to look into something odd I noticed: I installed theta-wave transmission equipment in the gear we sent Phan… but there was already a network of such devices when I tried to make contact. Secure transmission frequency.”
“Interesting.” said Wright. “There are other high-tech telepaths in Mayfield, right under both our and the Descendants noses. Look into it.”
“Will do. Anything else? Are the Aces going to have any missions coming up?”
Wright switched his news browser over to a feed from New York, discussing the unveiling of what was being billed as the World’s First Robotic Police Officer. His eye had caught the name ‘Robin Atan’ in passing earlier. “Not for you. But I’ll keep you posted.”
Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.
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